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Land Rush for ``Right-of-the Dot'' Domains

The filing deadline to score vanity domains is fast approaching

Illustration by Francesco Bongiorni

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If you have a website, chances are it ends with a dot-com. Nothing sexy about that, right? After all, there are only a few gTLDs (generic top-level domain names—the technical parlance for anything to the right of the dot) out there anyway.

Aside from a smattering of variant codes (“.org” for nonprofits, say, or “.edu” for universities, etc.), brands haven’t been given many options online. It’s the digital corollary to Henry Ford’s saying about giving the customer any color of Model T he wanted—so long as it was black. Hence, most U.S. brands have a “.com”; some have a “.net.” Since the late ’90s, marketers have dreamed of better: Wouldn’t it be cool, they thought, if we could stick our category, or even our brand name, to the right of the dot?

Their wish is about to come true—and soon. So soon, in fact, that some brands don’t even know about it, and many may already be too late to get a piece of the domain action.

“We’re finding that brand owners are just not aware of this,” says Armando Dacal, svp at Melbourne IT Digital Brand Services, Mountain View, Calif. “The application filing period will be two to three months, and if you don’t apply within that window, you’ll [be shut out] until 2015.”

Last year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit international body responsible for assigning domain names and IP addresses, announced it would create hundreds of new names for category domains like “.sport” and “.eco” and even actual brand names (companies have to prove they own their trademark, of course).

A few brands were quick to lawyer up. Canon announced last March that “it will be in the acquisition process of the top-level domain name ‘.canon’.”

But many other brands snoozed.

Now, that nap could prove costly. If ICANN issues its final guidebook for the application process on June 20, the 150-page application will be due late this year, and that’s not much time.

Oh, one other thing to keep in mind: Each form will cost $185,000 to file, plus $25,000 in annual domain fees.

.ouch!